Our last stop in Europe was Sagres in Portugal. This is a small fishing town in the south-west corner of Portugal. We stayed there for two nights waiting for the right winds to sail to Morocco.
It was 2,5 days sailing from Portugal to Morocco. Most yacht tourists visit Rabat in Morocco. However, since it is said to be quite touristy and winds were more favorable to sail more to the south we decided we will call El Jadida port instead. We read from sailboat forums that this is a fishing harbor and there are no facilities for visitor boats but sailboats may call the port and stay in anchorage or at berth if there is free space.
On arrival, we were greeted by the locals jumping from the pier and swimming all over the harbor area – this was the first cultural shock.
We were instructed by harbor master to anchor in the middle of the port (where actually people were swimming) and come ashore with the dinghy to complete the customs and immigration formalities. Harbourmaster told that for safety reasons one of us needs to go back to the boat and rest of can go to immigration and customs office. Jaanus went back to boat and Kaija and Margus went to complete the formalities. Since Africa is another world then the formalities took some time. Endless paperwork and stamps in the passport confirming your arrival in the town and the date you will be leaving. Luckily, everyone at the harbor, immigration and toll were really friendly and curious who we are and what are we doing in this small town.
The port had no facilities whatsoever, but the harbor tax was quite high, especially if you are considering that you pay for nothing. Soon we found WIFI from the nearby restaurant which also reached to our boat and we managed to find shower which was actually meant for local nautical club members. Luckily we were allowed to use this as well. It was very basic and rustic but we didn’t complain because at least we had an opportunity to have some fresh water shower after long sailing.
The port itself in El Jadida was quite a special sight. There were hundreds of small and bigger fishing boats. Everywhere you went you could smell the fish. Waking up in the next day morning we discovered that there is a big hassle on the pier for who will get the freshest fish.
We went to discover the El Jadida. There was an old Portuguese fortress right next to the bay where we anchored our boat. We decided we will visit this first. The fortress was basically a small town inside the walls. People actually lived there but there was tourist attractions as well like small souvenir shops.
We were „captured“ by one merchant who kept a herb shop. He sold all sorts of spices, herbs, teas and natural cosmetics etc. The funny story is that he offered us to sniff some miracle powder which was said to free the nose and help in case of allergies. It happened so fast that Jaanus couldn’t even say no. The powder had a very strong scent and it made Jaanus tears run. We thought ok that’s it now, he will drug us and drag to the backroom and that’s it for us. Next was Kaija to sniff and again he made it so quickly that it was impossible to react. Luckily nothing bad happened to us. The guy was actually really friendly and he gave us some good tips what to see in the town and where to find the market. Eventually, he, of course, was trying to sell some of his stuff to us but prices were quite high for us. Despite that, since he was a really nice guy and spent somewhat 10-15 minutes on us we decided to buy a pack of hibiscus tea which cost 6 euros. Later on, we discovered that the tea is really good so we were happy, but we knew that from the marked we would have gotten it at least half of the price we paid.
Since we wanted to but some fresh fruits and vegetables to the boat we headed toward the market. El Jadida seems not to be a very popular destination for tourist, so luckily for us, the town and market is all very authentic. Besides fruits and vegetables and meat there was all kinds of merchandise. Also, it was very unusual for European to see that each merchant was specialized to some certain articles. For example, one guy was just selling ropes. The other one was selling only household chemistry and nothing else. Then there was a guy who was only selling ovens and next guy was selling only mobile phones. It was difficult to take pictures because in Morocco you have to ask before you take picture from someone or someones premises.
We bought the fruits and vegetables from the market but we also were looking for a regular store to buy some water and milk products and meat. We were hesitated to buy the meat on the market.
Google maps showed there is one shopping mall nearby so we thought maybe there are groceries as well. The shopping mall turned out to be a fish and meat market. Since we were tired of walking we stopped in one of the cafeterias to have some drinks.
The owner of one cafeteria offered us to sit and eat something. Since we were a bit hungry, we considered why not, and it turned out to be a very good decision. We noticed that one side of the market is for small cafeterias and the other side fish and the meat was sold.
The owners took Jaanus to the other side and we could choose ourselves what kind of seafood we want. Jaanuse chose some fish what seemed to be paltus and some shrimp. He took it back to the cafeteria and cooked those basically in front of us. They served the fish and shrimp with delicious side dishes like fresh salad, lentils and eggplant smash. It was one of the best and most fresh seafood we have ever had and the price was only 125 dirhams together with drinks, which is about 12 euros. We were glad we managed to find such a great place to taste local food.
After the shopping, we went back to the harbor. We noticed that there were many kids at the harbour swimming and sailing with small boats. Probably because it was the weekend. Many of them were swimming around our boat and Margus had some hard time to manage the situation, because they were hanging on the anchor chain and tried to climb up to the boat. We eventually told to the security guy in the port to send someone to drive the kids away, because it was not good for the boat and also dangerous for the kiddos. Luckily soon someone went and helped Margus out. It was quite an awkward situation that its advisable that someone is always babysitting the boat because of crazy local kids. Kaija also had her turn on babysitting the boat when guys went back to town to get some diesel for the boat.
We had to also do the departing immigration procedure which basically meant to have departure stamp on the passports so we went to collect those and prepared to leave. On the way back to the boat we noticed some local kid with two big crabs in his bucket. We asked if he is willing to sell those to us? He did not understand English but some fisherman came to translate and we managed to buy those for 80 dirhams which is about 7.5 euros. What a good deal, we will have a splendid dinner!
The fishermen sent us on the way with the words “You are very welcome here!”. Moving on, we were called by the security guy who we had already made friends with. He had a little present for us – grilled sardines straight from the fisherman. This was actually the most common food that every local seemed to be eating. The harbour guard was a super nice guy! He was really friendly and every time we were moving in the harbour he came to talk to us and made sure everything is ok. Although we did not really understand each other because he did not speak English and we did not speak French (many locals speak French).
Finally, we were ready to set the sails and we started our journey towards next port Essaouria while preparing crab and sardines for the dinner.